Robbie Rogers made headlines when he came out earlier this year. After his announcement Rogers promptly retired from professional soccer. The 26-year-old Californian is on the verge of making headlines once again, as Rogers’ retirement proved to be short-lived.
Late Friday night Rogers’ MLS rights were traded from the Chicago Fire to the Los Angeles Galaxy for Mike Magee. Rogers could make his 2013 debut as soon as this weekend and becomes the first openly gay player in the league.
In a wide-ranging, very worthwhile interview with USA Today Rogers said speaking at a LGBT youth forum in Portland last month changed his mind about continuing his career.
“I seriously felt like a coward. These kids are standing up for themselves and changing the world, and I’m 25, I have a platform and a voice to be a role model. How much of a coward was I to not step up to the plate?”
Rogers has 18 caps for the U.S. National Team. He became the first player to score during the Jurgen Klinsmann era in a 1-1 draw against Mexico in August, 2011. If he plays well with the Galaxy, where he’ll team with Landon Donovan and Omar Gonzalez, among others, Rogers could put his name back into consideration for the U.S. team heading into the 2014 World Cup.
It bears watching to see how the American sports world — and media — react to Rogers returning to the field. Openly gay players in sports has been a major topic of discussion throughout 2013 from the Baltimore Ravens’ Brendon Ayanbadejo vocal support of same-sex marriage to NBA center Jason Collins coming out in a story by Sports Illustrated in April.
Aside from when the David Beckham circus was in town, MLS doesn’t tend to draw that much national attention, but will Rogers’ return should briefly change that if only on a much smaller scale. The publicity that would come with being, as Rogers put it, “the gay footballer,” was part of the reason he announced his retirement in February after he’s left English club Leeds United by mutual agreement. However the reaction to Rogers’ coming out has been almost universally positive by the American soccer community.
The over-flowing acceptance is part of the reason why Rogers’ attitude has changed, as he told USA Today:
“I want to come back and be that voice, be that role model,” Rogers says. “I want to compete on the field. I want to make it back to the national team. I want to be a role model. I have a lot of motivating factors working for me right now.”
This would seem like a win-win for all parties involved. Since this is MLS, outside of the first couple matches Rogers plays it won’t be a three-ring media circus, yet he can still make history and become a role model for gay — and straight — athletes in all walks of life. Once the initial publicity dies down the low-profile nature of MLS will be more conducive to allowing Rogers to go back to being another soccer player, judged by his on-the-file merits, rather than his sexuality which seems to be one of his ultimate goals.
The Galaxy have a press conference scheduled for Saturday afternoon to announce Rogers’ arrival.